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Family Links to Avoca Handweavers, Ireland – Part One

Discovering Avoca

June Parsons has been incorporating Avoca fabrics into her creations for many years and her most recent creation Le Tour de Yorkshire outfit was made using a sublime Tweed green wool fabric from Avoca. The fabrics are superb quality with beautiful natural colours of heather, lavender, grasses etc. Much to June's delight, she recently found out that her family have profound links with the Avoca Handweavers.

Coming from a family of dressmakers and tailors on my mother's side, I'm pleased to discover there are also links to textiles on my husband's side of the family. Wonderful!” June Parsons

June will be travelling to Wicklow in Ireland at the end of May 2015 to learn more about the Parsons family history and its links to the Avoca Handweavers in Avoca village, Wicklow.

Avoca, a piece of history

Founded in 1723, the Avoca Handweavers produced cloth for local people. In the 1920s it looked like the mill was closing. The sisters, Emily, Winifred and Veronica Wynne (cousins of June's Father in-law, Robert Parsons) believed they could do something about it and developed it into a successful business. Emily Parsons (Robert's mother) told how they went to the Wicklow hills to pick heather to make dyes, so introducing colour into the fabrics. Their eye for colour was widely acclaimed, and they sold their products in Europe and America. They invented the car rug, most useful in the days before cars had all the comforts we know now.

The fame of their fabrics rose when they were used by an Italian designer, Elsa Schiaparelli. The material was also used for a waistcoat for King George VI and baby blankets for the children of Queen Elizabeth II.

The three sisters worked very well together, each having her own strength in one or more areas of the business. One of their talents was how they combined colours that very often reflected what they saw in nature. The tweeds were almost indestructible. They were wonderful, highly intelligent, versatile women – way ahead of their time in terms of `liberation'. They never married.” Graham Wynne (Grandson of their brother, Jack)

Graham Wynne's parents, Pat and Una Wynne took over the business in 1959 (after Emily died and Winifred and Veronica could no longer manage things due to age and declining health) and saved it from extinction. They kept it going as best they could, and continued to employ weavers until a property developer named Charlie Houlihan purchased Tigroney House (the three sisters' home), the land and the business in 1974.

The business now has a range of cafes, shops, visitor centre and weavers. Details can be found at their website

Thank you Robert Parsons for details of the family history.

Part Two to follow after the family trip to Avoca.

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